Safe grilling tips ensure enjoyable summertime fun

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Summertime is barbecuing time, but remeber to follow barbecuing basics to help keep outdoor cooking safe and enjoyable.

Remember to protect clothing with a heavy apron and hands and arms with barbecuing or oven mitts. Use long-handled barbecue tools including long-handled salt and pepper shakers designed specifically for grilling.

The grill should be sturdy, stable, clean and in an area free of combustible materials. It should also be away from buildings, shrubs and out of the traffic pattern to avoid tipping it over. Avoid barbecuing in a garage or other closed area due to weather. Heat rises and requires venting along with lethal concentrations of carbon monoxide which result from smoldering charcoal.

Avoid using gasoline, kerosene, alcohol or a cigarette lighter to start a charcoal fire, which can create flash flames. Use instead instant-lighting charcoal that is presoaked.

Never leave a grill unattended and keep a spray water bottle handy to manage flare ups from fat drippings onto the coals.

After barbecuing, close the lid on the grill, close the vents and allow the coals to cool overnight, or douse the fire thoroughly with water. Discard ashes in a metal container. Do not empty coals into a cardboard box, toss them on the grass or put them on any nonflammable surface. Clean the grill when it has cooled.

Platters or pans used for raw meat should be cleaned with hot, sudsy water before using them for cooked meat. Failing to do so can cause bacteria from raw food to be transmitted to the cooked food.

Preparing meat

-- Choose lean cuts of meat and trim all fat.

-- To cook evenly, thaw frozen foods thoroughly before grilling.

-- Do not place the heat source directly under the meat. Raise the grill level to at least five inches from the heat.

-- To reduce grilling time, particularly for thick cuts of meat, partially pre-cook the meat first (microwave oven), then finish on the grill.

-- Place aluminum foil or a meal pan between the meat and the coals to catch the dripping fat.

Tips for gas grilling

-- Always follow instructions that come with the grill.

-- For routine spring maintenance, take the burner out of the grill and clean the tubes with a bristle brush, wire or pipe cleaner. Use a nail or paper clip to unclog holes where rust or grease may have accumulated.

-- Have the tank filled by a reputable propane dealer.

-- Check for leaks before connecting the tank by performing a soap-bubble test. Apply a mixture of dish detergent and water to all fittings. If bubbles appear at the connections, tighten and test them again. If the connections still bubble, call a qualified service provider. If there is a propane odor or hissing sound, turn off the cylinder valve and leave the area.

-- Open the hood completely before lighting the grill.

-- Turn off the gas after barbecuing.

-- If the grill is stored inside, disconnect the tank and leave it outdoors, upright and in a cool area.